CD Reviews

Wednesday 21st October

October 21, 2009

image001Not really being one or brevity when it comes to sharing my experiences with music, it always knocks me sideways when I listen to something that really leaves me clueless what to say about it. When I finally woke today (I got home from work at 7AM this morning and promptly spent much of the rest of the day in bed) I listened to a few piece so of music, but only one new item that I am able to write about here, though as I say I’m not really sure what to write.  Loic Blairon’s x\0 is a new release on Mattin’s w.m.o/r label, which is described as a work for double bass and text. There isn’t a lot of text involved, just a paragraph on the back of the sleeve written twice, once in French, once in English. There’s an awful lot more text than there is double bass though…

The music (if indeed it is music… I certainly think it is, but many wouldn’t agree) on x/0 is minimal. very, very minimal. The only sound to be heard on the recording, apart from the hiss of microphone gain if you turn the volume up very high, is an odd, decidedly un-bassy plinking sound, not unlike what you might hear if you dropped a small coin onto a glass tray from a few inches above it. The sound is probably made by plucking a string behind the bridge of the instrument, but if I didn’t know this music was played on a double bass I don’t think I would have guessed for one minute.

In fact if I didn’t know that a CD was even playing at all I probably wouldn’t have guessed. Throughout the half hour long piece there are maybe twenty of these plinks of sound. To begin with, as the dosc begins we hear three or fur  quite soon after one another, but then we have to wait five minutes before they appear again, just a couple of them this time before another four minutes pass. You can probably guess how the album goes on from here, just one or two (often just one) of these sounds with long silences between the,. later in the piece, around the twenty minute mark the gaps between single sounds seems to get shorter, and three or four come with maybe just thirty or forty seconds between them, but beyond this sudden crescendo there is little different to hear on the CD.

And that’s it. I don’t know what to say otherwise. The relationship between this music and that of Sugimoto a few years back is obvious, and in many ways x/0 is very similar to the music of Principa Sugimatica, maybe Sugimoto’s quietest and most atonal solo release. There is no melody, no aesthetic beauty in these single shards of sound Blairon makes, as if he is trying to avoid the entire history of the double bass. Why drag around such a huge heavy wooden instrument so as to make music that quite frankly could be accurately replicated with a 2p coin and the slightly sticky plate next to me that I just ate a cheese and tomato sandwich off of?

Clearly there is a fair amount of conceptual jiggery pokery going on (or not going on) here, and the accompanying text gives clues to Blairon’s motives, but I still don’t know how to respond to this CD. Normally when I sit down to listen to, and maybe write about music certain things happen- even with the quietest music I sit and listen carefully, taking in the spaces and letting the anticipation try and increase my enjoyment of the work, but somehow, for some reason that just doesn’t work here. The sounds fall flat when they arrive, and right from the start it didn’t ever feel like I would be doing anything other than clockwatching, waiting for the next sound to arrive just so I could time the distance to the next one.

So I don’t feel tension, I can’t hear beauty, and I have heard this kind of thing before. So really, I don’t know what to take from this release. I refuse to accept that it is a joke in any way (It clearly isn’t) and I refuse to dismiss the intentions of the musician out of hand. As one half of the Narthex duo with Marc Baron that released the great disc on Potlatch earlier this year Blairon is clearly capable of making music that is more involved with this (though the accompanying text suggests otherwise) Also, appearing on Mattin’s label it joins a line of releases that have some pedigree, so for now I am going to accept that I am missing something subtle, or that if I listened to this in a less dozy state of mind I would take something more from it. In the absence of having any idea what to write I’ll just reproduce the first few lines of Blairon’s text here for now, simply beacuse I can relate to what he writes here-

I have a postulate. I listen. I believe I have no ideas for making music; but that by listening I turn myself into a receptacle for the real; for everything escapes me, since my capacities are not those of a container. So I listen, before anything else. then I act in response to what I hear.

Oct09_VignettesI finally got the new pages up and running at the Cathnor site today as well. New CDs are now orderable. I won’t mention them again, but it feels good to get them out into the world. If record labels could suffer from constipation then Cathnor is the classic case. Anyone got any Ex-lax?

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